Motor vehicle thefts, fraud, and drug trafficking are some of the most common crimes committed daily in the country. And in each criminal case, prosecutors decide whether the defendant will be prosecuted in state or federal court.
Under the U.S. Constitution, both the federal government and the state courts have authority to prosecute crimes. The difference between these two, however, is defined mainly by jurisdiction, which refers to the types of cases a court is authorized to handle.
Majority of criminal prosecutions take place in state courts. Most of these trials are those in connection to the laws governed by the state. Hence, cases involving citizens of the state, such robberies, traffic violations, and family disputes, are most likely tried in state courts. Given their large judiciary scope, states prosecute a far greater number of crimes than the federal government.
Federal courts, meanwhile, handle criminal cases in which there is a federal interest. These include drug trafficking offenses, organized crime, copyright and patent infringement, financial crimes, and large-scale frauds. In addition, any crime that involves or takes place in a federal property, such as national parks and departments, authorizes the federal government to deal with the suspect.
When determining whether a case should be tried in a state or federal court, the main consideration is the jurisdiction of the court. Also, the decision is based on the extent of the matter and the scope and limitation of each state.